By Laura King
1. an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something
Friends Cameron Nimmo and Mickey Smith, from Jupiter, Florida, are self-confessed shark addicts who grew up around the water and always dreamed of scuba diving. Two years ago Cameron’s girlfriend, Andrea, told Mickey she was going to get Cameron his PADI Open Water certification for Christmas, so Mickey got certified too. They have not stopped diving since.
Mickey has been fascinated with sharks since he was a small child. What began with shark toys in the bathtub progressed to watching every program during Shark Week. For Cameron, the sight of a Caribbean reef shark — the first one he’d seen — was the genesis of the addiction. By his third dive he had already seen a hammerhead, which is both Cameron’s and Mickey’s favorite shark. Cameron’s even been known to say he likes sharks more than people.
Mickey and Cameron dive primarily with Emerald Charters in Jupiter, Florida. Owned and operated by Randy Jordan, many people call Emerald Charters the best shark-diving boat in Florida. With the Gulf Stream so close to shore, Jupiter attracts sharks year round, as well as other pelagics and big marine life. Jupiter’s coastline is also dotted with shipwrecks and artificial reefs, which attract more than 350 species of fish, five species of sea turtles and many rays and eels, as well as goliath grouper.
Cameron and Mickey both feel comfortable around sharks and approach the dives with positive energy and a calm attitude, which brings the sharks closer to them. I’ve tested this theory and found it to be true; if you project negative thoughts, a shark’s body language changes completely and their agitation becomes obvious. They will not come anywhere near you.
When asked whether they think shark feeding causes sharks to associate humans with food, Cameron says “I don’t believe the amount of food fed to them on these dives is even a percentage of what they need to survive, so it’s not changing their feeding behavior.” Mickey agrees and says that once the food is gone the sharks tend to disappear too. “The sharks fed in the Bahamas will continue to migrate and do what they normally do,” he says. “They do not just stay in the Bahamas to eat snacks from humans all day.”
Mickey and Cameron have begun branding themselves as “Shark Addicts,” using the footage they shoot every weekend with their GoPros to spread shark awareness and education, as well as demonstrating that humans and sharks can interact safely on a daily basis. Their goal is to show those who may never dive with sharks how beautiful the animals are, so that they in turn will advocate against shark finning, culling and fishing.
I began following the Shark Addicts on Instagram last year and was amazed at their footage; the variety of sharks that they see each weekend is pretty amazing. In January, their footage of a 12-foot tiger shark was broadcast on Fox 29 and WPTV5 and published in the TCPalm newspaper. That they are getting these shots and videos with nothing more than a GoPro makes them even more remarkable.
I asked them their views on the controversial shark cull in Western Australia. “I cannot believe they are going to that extreme,” says Cameron. “Last time I checked, it’s their ocean we are just visiting. They have been there for millions of years and will continue to be there unless uneducated humans keep killing them off before they have a chance to reproduce.” Mickey says, “It’s disgusting that people are removing apex predators from their own habitat because people are scared of them. I would like the people in their government to face jail time for this.”
When not diving, Cameron and Mickey can be found editing their photos and videos, and planning their next dives. To see some of their fantastic footage and photos, you can follow them on Instagram @sharkaddicts and @sharkaddicts2 or follow them on Facebook at Shark Addicts.